100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings
100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings, Richard Atkins and Emily Stephen (editors), SEDA, 2017, 240 pages, colour illustrations.
100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings is not a list of the ‘top 100’ sustainable buildings in Scotland; it is much more than that. An instructive assemblage of different types over different periods, it demonstrates the diversity and potential of a thoughtful response to social, economic, environmental sustainability. It is superbly illustrated. Punctuated by five short strategic pieces on central themes such as circular economy, social capital and buildings as agents of change, this is a useful inspiration and reference aimed at all those who work in the built and historic environment, demonstrating fulsomely what it claims, namely that ‘sustainability is a responsibility and an opportunity, not a hair shirt to be endured’.
The impressive international credentials of the contributors give an accurate steer as to the calibre of the monograph: Robin Harper, the first Green MP in the UK, provides a motivating foreword, followed by Professor Ray Cole of University of British Columbia, Canada, Professor Sandy Halliday of Gaia Research, and Chris Butters, guest professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and St John’s University Minnesota. David Cheshire of Aecom and Chris Stewart of Collective Architecture and SEDA further enrich the quality, while the co-editor and contributor, Richard Atkins, is co-author of the RIBA’s Sustainability Guide to the Plan of Works (2013, 2016).
There is much to savour on what is possible from the contents. Refurbishments are detailed constructively: notably, the Nicolson Street Housing, Edinburgh, by Gaia Architects, a city-centre, Category-B-listed building, where work informed by research ensured that all toxic materials and potential asthma and allergy triggers were removed, while materials with hygroscopic properties and breathing walls aided moisture management. Similarly, the ‘whole-house’ sustainable refurbishment undertaken at Scotstarvit Cottage by Historic Environment Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland used hemp and breathable perlite insulation, retaining all original features and passive ventilation. Challenges, such as the re-fitting of the Category-A-listed Royal Commonwealth Pool by S&P Architects, show what can be achieved successfully within an existing envelope, using filtration systems, solar heating and recycled water.
Historical types are explored for their early wisdom: for example, the colony housing in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge with a layout that combines the importance of sunlight with the advantages of communal living, low-rise accessibility, and simple practicality and compactness.
New designs enthuse those handling work in historic settings. Gokay Deveci’s affordable, low-energy housing at Tigh-na-Claddach on Dunoon’s seafront proves that ‘sustainable energy-efficient design is possible on a social housing budget’. Under the theme of work, Gaia Architects’ Straw Bale Office, Dunning, is a useful example of imaginative experiment using local and reclaimed materials sourced within 20 miles, from hazel twigs to wool insulation.
In conclusion, this book delivers, as Professor Fionn Stevenson of Sheffield School of Architecture advises: ‘If you want to truly understand the green spirit of ecological building design that is alive and thriving in Scotland... there is no better collection in the UK to guide students and practitioners alike’.
This article originally appeared as ‘Not a hair shirt’ in IHBC’s Context 154, published in May 2018. It was written by Deborah Mays, head of listing advice at Historic England and a former HESPR registered consultant.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
The awards showcase the very best historic places and cultural sites from across the globe.
The IHBC’s latest Toolbox Guidance Note, on ‘Alterations to Listed Buildings’ has been issued following UK-wide consultation.
The ruins of Ousdale Burn Broch, north of Helmsdale in Caithness, had fallen into further disrepair over the past 130 years.
Europe’s largest air museum and Britain’s best-preserved Second World War airfield – has been included in Grade II* listing, even though technically too recent.
The College of Arts and Conservation has won the award for a for a project which provides or improves facilities for the community, including a £5.8M restoration of the College’s 126-year-old roof.
Completion of the restoration of Stowe House’s North Hall, largely funded by World Monuments Fund (WMF), came a step closer this summer with the installation of a statue of Mercury opposite the imposing Laocoön group installed last year.
The CREATIVE Conservation Fund helps the IHBC generate and distribute funds exclusively to deserving causes in built and historic environment conservation.
For years, there have been rumours whispered around Plymouth and Cornwall about so-called ‘nuclear tunnels’ that exist beneath the Tamar Valley.
Just under half of England’s busiest bridges are severely defected or damaged, but have remained open due to concerns about an influx of traffic should repairs be ordered, it has been revealed.
The issue focusses on the future of an historic city – Oxford – and includes an introduction by Layla Moran MP, Chair of the new APPG on Conservation, People and Places which has the IHBC as its Secretariat.